“The nation’s most reliable network” can be found all over the United States, including in senior living communities like The Virginian, a continuing care retirement community in Fairfax, Va. that recently installed Verizon FiOS (Fiber Optic Service) TV, phone, and Internet along with implementing Healthsense technology.
The combination of a wireless FIOS platform and Healthsense’s monitoring and response systems can help communities provide a higher quality of care that enables aging in place while improving staff productivity and more efficient use of time.
“We were faced with aging in place and rising expectations for residents to feel secure [so that] if they need assistance, it’s readily and reliably available,” says Chris Isherwood executive director of The Virginian. “Looking to the future, we’re all under cost pressure these days. We’re going to go more toward things that let us know the needs of residents.”
Expectations among incoming residents are getting higher all the time, says Isherwood. “It’s a very well-informed public these days, [with] the beginnings of the boomer generation. The people coming in now are really tech-savvy,” he says—some of them “remarkably so,” while others “couldn’t give a hoot” about what kind of technology platform the community has.
It’s important for technology providers’ products to complement where clients currently are, instead of go ahead of them, says Brian Bischoff, co-founder, president, and CEO of Healthsense. “When you look at a senior living provider, they have an awareness that the people in their buildings are older, frailer, and have more demands,” he says. “There are three big drivers in the back of their minds: How do I retain and improve the occupancy of my buildings, raise the productivity of my staff, and offer new revenue streams?”
Most providers know they’ll need to do something to prepare for higher acuity among residents, and remote monitoring is one method. The Virginian’s new system has helped introduce staff efficiency, says Isherwood.
“Our biggest cost in this industry is labor,” he says. “We need to get care where it’s needed. With a system like this that uses pendants and motion sensors, we can identify users and potential issues much earlier.” One example, he says, is the community’s Morning Watch program that now uses Healthsense technology to yield “enormous savings” in nursing time.
Previously, the community used what it calls a “doughnut system,” where residents would hang a circular piece of red felt outside their door each night. In the morning, they were requested to flip the “doughnut” to a white side to let the morning round nurse know they were up and about. If the “doughnut” remained red, the nurse would check on the resident.
The new system has a motion sensor that automatically registers movement. The community knows whether or not there has been activity in each unit, and if the resident hasn’t made any movement by a certain time, the nurse can then go to check in.
Besides promoting better staffing efficiency, there are other ways remote monitoring solutions can help communities gain cost-savings. Implementing these systems helps aging in place by allowing residents to stay in their preferred locations, says Mike Weston, director of marketing operations for Verizon Enhanced Communities, a division within Verizon dedicated to serving the multifamily space, including senior living communities.
“We think this technology is a key enabler,” he says. “There’s clear demand for these services—no question—and there’s going to be increased demand as the populations grow, and we need to meet their needs more efficiently without necessarily clogging hospital waiting rooms and doctors’ offices.”
It’s an investment for the future, they agree.
“They’re really good for a long time with this investment,” Bischoff says of The Virginian. “Think about all the other applications that will come out: If they decide to implement eMARs on campus, or e-billing, they’re good to go. They won’t have to go back and figure out how to integrate proprietary systems and maintain them all, so additional savings can come from that.”
As an added bonus, The Virginian didn’t pay anything to deploy Verizon FIOS to the community, according to Weston, who says his company has invested about $22 billion in FIOS deployment across its service territories so far.
Ultimately, the Verizon platform is a utility, and it can be used as a marketing tool for new prospects.
“One of the big pluses is that we’re able to offer a triple-play to incoming residents—Internet, phone, and TV services in one bundle,” says Isherwood. “A lot of families are now expecting some of these types of services to be available in retirement communities. It gives them [the ability] to communicate basically world-wide through the Internet, and it places us in a strong position as people go shopping to see what services are available at different retirement communities.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace